Your posture is all about the way you hold and move your body. A good posture makes you feel alive, nimble, full of energy and puts minimal strain on your body.
A poor posture makes you feel sluggish, drained and puts excess stress on various key joints and other systems. It also plays havoc with your mental health.
Your posture plays a huge role in your physical and mental health. You can liven your mood and rid yourself of many pains and long term ailments just by changing the way you hold your body and, best of all, the results are virtually instantaneous.
Your posture speaks
You can read quite a lot about people from their posture. Old injuries and patterns of tension, their moods, even clues to what they do for a living.
From the moment you left the womb all your tensions have been stored in and are echoed in your posture. Your posture, therefore, is a map of your life and defines and reflects your lifestyle, identity, current mood and state of mind and health.
The two-legged ape
Ever since we learned to stand on our two back legs we have had problems with our posture.
The advantages of being a biped are many but they do come at a cost and that cost is often in pain and limited movement. The spine in four legged animals acts as an arch with bones and organs hanging down from it. However we have changed all that so that ours now acts as a weight-bearing column.
To enable your spine to bear your weight efficiently and to withstand shocks it developed the S shaped curves. In many modern humans, the springiness of those graceful and useful curves has been severely diminished because of the high levels of tension in the back muscles.
In India they say that a man’s age is measured by the mobility of his spine. So it’s important that we learn to keep our spine mobile and healthy and allow the force of gravity to work through the spine correctly.
The tai chi cure
The principles and movements of tai chi help to restore mobility to the spine. The twisting and coiling movements, the sinking of the lower back and the wave-like movements that flow from legs to arms help to mobilise the spine and restore it’s vitality again. Not all tai chi teachers cover this but regaining control of your spinal muscles is one of the more important elements of tai chi.
I have had several students comment that they walked into their very first tai chi session with pain in their lower back and were pain free when they walked out. I know that pain will return but they are learning key skills in how to hold their body that will keep that pain away long-term.
The standing and breathing practices of qigong are also highly beneficial and are also covered in our classes. Only by standing still can you really feel what is happening in your posture and work to release the tensions and strengthen the areas that are out of balance.
Thunderbirds are go
A simple tip to instantly improve your posture is to imagine your body is suspended by a string attached to the top of your head. Your head is pulled up and everything else relaxed down underneath. Just like a string puppet from Thunderbirds.
When you hold your body like this everything aligns with gravity and you can relax your upper body properly onto your legs. Obviously it isn’t quite as simple as this which is why tai chi can take a long time to learn but this is the general idea. Try it next time you go out walking.